The San Jose Earthquakes parted ways with head coach Dominic Kinnear and assistant coach John Spencer on Sunday, just hours after they beat Real Salt Lake2-1 at Avaya Stadium on Saturday night to move into fifth-place in the Western Conference.
The Quakes named Chris Leitch as their new head coach, moving him to the bench from his role as technical director. Alex Covelo, who was hired by San Jose in April as the club’s director of methodology, was appointed as an assistant. Current assistant coach Steve Ralston and goalkeeper coach Tim Hanley will remain with the team in their current roles.
“First and foremost, we would like to thank Dominic for his hard work, professionalism and contributions to the club over the years,” Earthquakes general manager Jesse Fioranelli said in a statement released by the club. “He worked hard this year and was a first-class person all the way. This decision was made after a lot of thought and evaluation. We decided that we wanted to go in a different direction as we continue to build the identity of the club.”
A Bay Area native, Kinnear began his second stint as Quakes head coach ahead of the 2015 season. He led the club to a 27-31-27 regular season record during his recently-concluded stint. He first coached San Jose in 2004 and 2005, leading them to the Supporters’ Shield in 2005 before the team moved to Houston. He coached the Dynamo from their inaugural season in 2006 through 2014, winning MLS Cup in 2006 and 2007 and making the final in 2011 and 2012.
San Jose missed the playoffs in both of Kinnear’s two full seasons with the club. Ex-Quakes GM John Doyle, who was involved with the decision to hire Kinnear from Houston in 2015, was dismissed by the club last August. Fioranelli was hired from Italian club Roma as Doyle’s full-time replacement in January; Letich served as interim GM before Fioranelli joined San Jose.
“I would like to thank the ownership group for giving me the opportunity to coach the club,” Kinnear said in the statement. “I want to thank my staff for all their hard work and I wish the players the best of luck going forward.”
Leitch, 38, has held a number of positions with San Jose since retiring following a 10-year playing career after the 2011 season. He started as the club’s academy director in 2012 and was promoted to technical director in 2015, served as interim GM between Doyle's dismissal and Fioranelli's hiring and then returned to his technical director post earlier this year.
“Chris is the ideal person to take the role for the Earthquakes at this time,” Fioranelli said. ““He has a history with the club and has very good knowledge of our entire development pipeline from the youth teams, through PDL and USL up to the first team. He combines that with a shared vision for the club’s identity that we have been developing for the past months. Chris and Alex give us two very good soccer minds with a desire to make this club one of the best in MLS.”
“It has been an honor to work with Dominic for the past two and a half years,” added Leitch. “I am grateful to have an opportunity to coach at this club. I am looking forward to getting onto the field and working with this great group of players and staff. Our immediate goal is to make the playoffs this year and we can definitely accomplish that if we all work hard together.”